Susan Granger’s review of “Wreck-It Ralph” (Walt Disney Pictures)
Remember how in “Toy Story” the toys came to life? Now, video arcade characters come to life.
At Litwak’s Arcade, demolition-expert Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) dreams of gaining respect and acceptance, like the good-guy with a magic hammer known as Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer), whose repair skills make him a hero to the Nicelanders. Having been a smashing bad guy for 30 years, Ralph confesses his secret at his weekly “Bad-Anon” 12-step support group. But Ralph’s aspirations are thwarted until he visits Game Central Station, a huge surge-protector terminal, where he embarks on a personal quest that takes him through multiple digital gaming generations. Despite the dire warning, “If you die outside your own game, you don’t regenerate – ever,” Ralph is determined to prove that just because he was programmed to be evil that doesn’t mean he can’t overcome that to become what he really desires.
Subversively scripted by Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston (“Cedar Rapids”) and directed by “Simpsons” Emmy-winning Rich Moore, this computer-animated 3D feature recalls many video games of yesteryear as Ralph befriends nine year-old Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a feisty girly ‘glitch’ from the candy-colored, anime-influenced cart-racing game “Sugar Rush Speedway,” and grapples with fearless Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch), leading her squad against extraterrestrial computer viruses known as Cy-Bugs in the hi-def, hyper-violent “Hero’s Duty.” Along the way, hot-tempered Ralph accidentally hatches a rogue Cy-Bug invader that clings to him as he escapes from one game to another and threatens to obliterate the entire Arcade.
Disney’s art department has created visually dazzling, distinctively retro worlds for each of these individual electronic encounters, and Henry Jackman’s energetic score includes eclectic selections from R&B star Rihanna, classic Kool & the Gang and electronica artist Skrillex, among others.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Wreck-It Ralph” revs up to a wired, inventive 8. Obviously, the more familiar you are with the glossy game culture, the more you’ll enjoy the nostalgic ‘in’ jokes.